Comfort Matters Dementia Care Education is interdisciplinary education for professional caregivers who, in collaboration with family and friends, provide care for persons with dementia. This program has been studied and then adopted by hundreds of health care staff. The program continues to evolve and incorporate emerging evidence that is then performance-tested in health care organizations.
What is Comfort Matters Dementia Care Education?
How does Comfort Matters Dementia Care Education work?
Comfort Matters works off this handful of deceptively simple, but really powerful key concepts:
- Comfort Care
- Anticipation of Needs
- Know the Person
- Person-Directed Practice
- Staff Empowerment
Comfort Matters categorizes courses as core-, application-, or production-level courses. As these labels suggest, core-level courses provide strong knowledge foundations related to comfort care. In application-level courses staff apply their knowledge. Production-level work requires that staff use their foundational knowledge and its applications to begin to design a comfort care program fitted to their particular organization. Comfort Matters is not considered as one-size-fits-all education.
Key Concepts in Dementia Care Education provides an introduction to Comfort Matters education. First is a review of moderate and advanced dementia and an introduction to concepts in comfort. Next, the course elaborates on definitions of five key concepts and provides a rationale for their importance in the care of persons with dementia. A discussion of cultural competence and how it’s applied in palliative care enlarges the key concept, “know the person.” [See References]
What Caregivers Need to Know about Comfort Care expands staff knowledge of key concepts and broadens that knowledge into competencies tailor-made for specific caregivers according to their job roles. Competencies are statements about a person’s knowledge, skills, or abilities. Here are two example competencies:
- Describe the connection between staff actions and their positive or negative impact on the environment of the person with dementia.
- Demonstrate how to honor the personal food preferences of a person with dementia.
Over several years, Beatitudes Campus health care staff developed, used and revised competencies for education programs for health care staff. Some competencies are common to all job roles, but other competencies are specialized to particular roles. Roles currently include administrators, directors of nursing, unit managers-directors, licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants, activity professionals-recreational therapists, social workers, dietary professionals, housekeeping-laundry-maintenance staff, and spiritual care providers. That sizable numbers of competencies are shared by all job roles makes sense, given that staff empowerment in this program means staff members have the “go ahead” to do what is best for individuals with dementia, within the policies and procedures of the organization. Caregiving staff learn not only how to execute their roles, but also how to work together as a team. This, of course, maximizes interdisciplinary comfort and care for the benefit of all the people involved. [See References]
Comfort-Focused Approaches to Dementia-Related Behaviors is a course for every staff member because providing comfort care for persons with dementia is the job of all the people at a health care organization. These sessions enable staff not only to detect actions associated with dementia in individuals and groups of persons, but also to interpret those actions as communications about unmet needs. In addition, staff become acquainted with a variety of comfort-focused approaches to improve life situations, including anticipation of needs. I-Care planning is introduced and afterwards, as a group, staff prepare, use and reflect on an I-Care comfort-focused care plan for one person in their own organization. [See References]
Assessing and Addressing Pain in Persons with Dementia is about finding out whether persons with dementia are in pain and what to do when pain is detected. Every staff person is expected to be knowledgeable about assessing pain and either doing something about it or reporting it to someone who can. Tools for making comprehensive pain assessments are the initial course focus. Next, both nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic interventions to address pain are focal points for learning and application. As in other application courses staff prepare, implement and evaluate an I-Care plan for pain for a person with dementia in their organization. They work with colleagues in this endeavor. [See References]
The Magic of Making Connections is about helping persons with dementia make connections within themselves and to their environments. Comfort Matters insists that persons with dementia continue to be treated as people with respect long after their self-awareness is diminished. Staff consider the sensory environments of persons with dementia. Are these individuals dealing with over-stimulation, unpleasant stimulation, lack of personally meaningful stimulation or boredom? Any of these conditions may result in actions that affect not only the individual but also his/her colleagues. Caregivers learn to improve situations using sensory experiences such as aromatherapy, shared visual and tactile experiences, music, and pet therapy (to name a few). Staff design, use and reflect on an I-Care sensory experiences plan for a person in their organization. [See References]
Toward Person-Directed Care: Comfort for Individuals with Dementia in Long Term Health Care Organizations helps organizations plan for and operationalize comfort care practices. The course is concerned with four essential change processes that take place in sequence: needs assessment (finding out which process, plan, procedure, or other matter in an existing program should change), planning or figuring out the “new thing,” implementing or using the “new thing,” and evaluating or finding out how well the “new thing” works. All staff are invited to participate either as interested stakeholders or as leaders in the change processes. Example plans for change, as well as example plans for implementation and evaluation of change are included. [See References]